Event brings in families, helps JDRF

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published March 16, 2012

 At the city of Warren table, healthy living coordinator Londisa Halili-Jones, right, passes out raffle prizes at Take Care of You Night.

At the city of Warren table, healthy living coordinator Londisa Halili-Jones, right, passes out raffle prizes at Take Care of You Night.

Photo by David Schreiber

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WARREN — Fitzgerald High School sophomore Marcell Sanchez has a goal to achieve by his 21st birthday — to have his own charity that pays for insulin for diabetic children whose families can’t afford it.

“I don’t want to see diabetes in the future,” Sanchez said. “Hopefully, diabetes is gone 10 years from today.”

Sanchez is already giving back. On the evening of March 9, a Take Care of You Night event, sponsored by the Fitzgerald High School’s Safe and Supportive Schools Grant, was held at the high school. Admission was $1 (or more) with proceeds benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Several organizations set up booths in the school’s hallways, and throughout the evening, families enjoyed free massages, swimming, basketball, manicures, Zumba and more. More than 200 people attended the event, which raised $483 for the JDRF.

Sanchez, a typical 15-year-old who plays football and has a girlfriend, has been living with Type I diabetes since age 12. One particular afternoon while on the football field, the seventh-grader who was “always thirsty” became ill and was rushed to the hospital with a blood sugar level of 549. It was determined Sanchez had Type I diabetes. He began taking several insulin shots every day to manage the disease.

“At first, I was feeling really upset and sad,” he said. “I’m so young. I was crying when I had to give myself a shot.”

He has since become very open about his diabetes and sees his doctor every three months. Sanchez has learned to watch his diet, and instead of shots, he switched to an insulin pump, which he prefers. The pump, which tracks his carbohydrate intake, is attached to his torso.

“I get a constant drop of insulin all day long,” the aspiring pharmacist said. If Sanchez gets low blood sugar, he sweats, becomes weak and confused.

“It’s hard for me to stand up,” said Sanchez, adding that his late grandmother had diabetes as does a cousin. “I have to be careful. I bring candy or orange juice with me in case my insulin gets low.”

His mom Marissa Nelson was “shocked” when Sanchez was diagnosed as a diabetic.

“How was he going to accept it? In the beginning, it was a struggle,” Nelson said.

Sanchez always insisted on giving himself his own shots.

“He managed so good his first year he got the insulin pump,” Nelson said. “Me and his father kept instilling in him, ‘You can still live a normal life.’”

But the worrying never goes away.

“I think about it all the time,” Nelson said.

According to a JDRF pamphlet, Type I diabetes causes the body to attack the pancreas, which destroys the insulin producing cells.

“While the causes of this process are not yet entirely understood, scientists believe that both genetic factors and environmental triggers are involved,” the pamphlet stated.

Nelson and her children enjoyed Take Care of You Night.

“I think it’s going good,” said Nelson, while her 4-year-old daughter, Damonica, showed off her newly manicured nails.

JDRF special events coordinator Sally Ruterbusch and senior outreach manager Denise Pentescu distributed information about juvenile diabetes during the evening. The JDRF’s mission is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. Since 1970, the nonprofit foundation has awarded more than $1.3 billion to diabetes research. The organization also offers a number of support service programs and conducts educational events.

“This is great,” Ruterbusch said of Take Care of You Night.

“The support system, that’s so important,” Pentescu said. “This is a chronic disease. It’s not going to go away.”

Pentescu became involved with the JDRF when her son Chris, 17, was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at age 4. The family first thought he had a bladder infection, but “his blood sugar was so high,” it was determined the young child had diabetes.

“He was on shots, six a day before he got a pump,” Pentescu said. “The whole idea is not to have low lows or high highs.”

Chris has been able to do things in spite of the disease. He’s an honor student, plays varsity golf and has plans to attend Grand Valley State University. He is friends with Ruterbusch’s two sons.

The fifth annual Diabetes Today And Tomorrow conference and exhibits will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. May 12 at Burton Manor in Livonia. Several topics are on the agenda, and there is a kids camp available that day for children ages 5 to 12 who have diabetes. To register, visit www.jdrfcares.org/ConfrenceReg istration. Attendance is free, and seating is limited.

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